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Texas on alert as Tropical Storm Beta crawls toward the coast

Atlantic tropics satellite image for Saturday, Sept. 19.
Atlantic tropics satellite image for Saturday, Sept. 19. (WPLG)

There was a naming frenzy in the tropics yesterday as the National Hurricane Center reeled off three new named storms back to back: Wilfred, Alpha, and Beta. That’s only the second time in the record book that that’s happened – 3 storms reaching tropical-storm status in the same day. The previous occurrence was on August 15, 1893. Two of the three 1893 storms were extremely consequential hurricanes – one hitting New York City and the other a horrific Category 3 storm that hit the low-lying Sea Islands near Savannah, Georgia.

What we know about the evolution of those 1893 storms is very different than today, of course. So whether those three storms actually acquired 40 mph winds on the same date is open to question.

Of the modern newcomers, the storm of primary interest is Tropical Storm Beta.

Tropical Storm Beta satellite image on Saturday, Sept. 19.
Tropical Storm Beta satellite image on Saturday, Sept. 19. (WPLG)

All of the 21 names in the primary 2020 list were used, so by World Meteorological Organization policy the Greek alphabet is used for the overflow. Tropical Storms Alpha and Beta have already formed, so Gamma and Delta are next.

Tropical Storm Beta formed out of the disturbance we have been tracking for over a week in the Gulf of Mexico. Like Hurricane Sally just a few days ago, Beta is trapped under weak and changing steering currents, so nothing is going to happen fast. Also, that means that forecasts are likely to have higher errors than average.

The current thinking is that Beta will zig and zag its way north, west, and then north again in western Gulf, bringing it very close to or over the Texas coast. The details of the various zigs and zags are extremely uncertain, however, so it is impossible to know exactly where the coastal impacts will be, if they occur.

The current thinking is that Beta will drift west into early next week while it is intensifying to hurricane strength or near that.

Advisory information for Tropical Storm Beta.
Advisory information for Tropical Storm Beta. (WPLG)

As they were with Sally, both the track and the intensity forecast forecasts are best estimates. There are chaotic atmospheric factors involved that lower our ability to make confident forecasts. Everybody on the Texas coast needs to stay informed and be ready for changes to the details of the forecast.

In the Atlantic, the consensus of the computer forecast models and the National Hurricane Center forecast predicts that the worst of Category 3 Hurricane Teddy will miss Bermuda when the storm passes the island tomorrow night or early Monday – though it’s still not a guarantee.

As the storm moves into the North Atlantic early next week, it is likely to transition into a nor’easter, winter-type storm as it heads toward Atlantic Canada. Significant ocean effects will be felt in New England, however, from Cape Cod to the north. Coastal Maine still has to watch developments with Teddy’s track, but the consensus of the computer forecast models is that it will miss to the east.

Advisory information for Hurricane Teddy.
Advisory information for Hurricane Teddy. (WPLG)

Farther out in the Atlantic, Ex-Paulette is making a comeback. As it tracks south over warmer waters it has a good chance of becoming tropical enough to regain the name Tropical Storm Paulette. After some more running around, it should eventually die at sea.

Tropical Storm Wilfred is heading into the open ocean. After a few days, it is forecast to run into hostile upper winds and die out.

Disturbance #1 will be the next system to move off the African coast. It’s not expected to be a threat to land, even if it develops.

Tropical Storm Alpha formed yesterday. It was embedded in a large non-tropical system in the east Atlantic, but met the criteria to be called a tropical storm. It quickly moved ashore in Portugal and has now died out over the high terrain of the Iberian Peninsula.

Even with record activity in the Atlantic, no tropical development is expected that might threaten Florida through the middle of next week, at least.


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